Monday, May 25, 2015

Daily Headlines: May 25, 2015

* Peru: Authorities declared a 60-day state of emergency in two Peruvian provinces over an escalation of violence between police and protesters against construction of the $1.4 billion Tia Maria copper mine project.

* Mexico: Family members of some of the forty-two alleged criminals killed in a shootout on Friday alleged that the victims were massacred by Mexican troops.

* Argentina: The recent death of a 14-year-old girl reportedly murdered by her boyfriend has shined a light on femicides in Argentina.

* U.S.: Juan Pablo Montoya overcame being in last place and pit stop problems to win his second Indianapolis 500 title fifteen years after his initial victory.

YouTube Source – euronews (At least four people have died in clashes over the proposed Tia Maria project in southern Peru).

Online Sources – GlobalPost, The Daily Beast, CNN, CBS Sports

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Weekender: Martyrs of El Salvador

“The Weekender” is our feature where every weekend we hope to highlight a short film, movie or documentary pertaining to the Americas.

On March 23rd the late Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero was beatified during an official ceremony attended by some 260,000 people in San Salvador. The outspoken human rights defender was murdered in March 1980 while officiating mass at a military hospital. Sadly, Romero wasn’t the only religious figure killed on the cusp of El Salvador’s civil war.

Nearly six months after Romero’s death four U.S. churchwomen – nuns Ita Ford, Maura Clarke, Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan – were brutally raped, tortured and murdered by National Guard soldiers allegedly on orders from their superiors. Much like the aftermath of the death of Romero, the killed women were slandered and labeled as communist sympathizers and revolutionaries.  They also shared another unfortunate parallel in that the masterminds behind their deaths have yet to be brought to justice.  Yet while a strong campaign has advocated sainthood for Romero no such push for canonization is behind the murdered nuns and lay worker. National Catholic Reporter columnist Heidi Schlumpf wrote last February that this should not be the case:
The Catholic Church's process for declaring someone is a saint can be costly and requires support from an organized group, most often a religious order -- which explains why so many founders and foundresses have been canonized over the centuries. It also explains why the church has so few lay saints.
But the lack of an official stamp of sainthood has not stopped Catholics from honoring the four churchwomen of El Salvador. Books have been written about them, those involved in justice work pray for their intercession, and young Catholics already choose their names as their confirmation names.
Below the page break is a November 2014 video from The New York Times’ Retro Report series that looked at the horrible murderers of Ford, Clarke, Kazel and Donovan. The analysis provides more details behind their deaths, the role played by the U.S. government to defend the Salvadoran military and the cover-up by officials from the Central American country.

(Note: the video may be Not Safe for Work due to several strong scenes of victims of violence).

Friday, May 22, 2015

Daily Headlines: May 22, 2015

* El Salvador: Salvadoran ombudsman David Morales called for reopening the investigation into the 1980 murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero and the prosecution of “some of the people who participated in the crime.”

* South America: Chile’s ex-intelligence chief during the Pinochet regime, Manuel Contreras, was sentenced to 505 years in prison while thousands of Uruguayans marched to commemorate victims of the former military dictatorship.

* Mexico: The Mexican government cut its economic growth forecast for 2015 even though first quarter growth increased at the rate predicted by financial analysts.

* Bolivia: President Evo Morales is reportedly facing mounting opposition from his own indigenous political base.

YouTube Source – Rome Reports

Online Sources – Fox News Latino, SBS teleSUR English, Bloomberg, USA TODAY

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Daily Headlines: May 21, 2015

* Paraguay: A judge refused to conditionally release the mother of her pregnant and sexually abused 10-year-old daughter who is the subject of an intense abortion debate in Paraguay.

* Puerto Rico: Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla pushed for tax increases and cuts to programs as part of his proposed $9.8 billion budget for the cash-strapped commonwealth.

* Colombia: An eleven-month-old child was found yesterday buried under the rubble caused by a massive landslide on Monday that killed at least eighty-three people.

* Cuba: U.S. and Cuban government representatives are meeting today in the latest round of discussions that could soon lead to the reestablishing of full diplomatic relations.

YouTube Source – ODN 

Online Sources – ABC News, The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, BBC News, The New York Times

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Daily Headlines: May 20, 2015

* Uruguay: Four former Guantanamo detainees relocated to Uruguay agreed to end their almost month-long protest in front of the U.S. Embassy in Montevideo.

* Brazil: Visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff signed numerous deals worth tens of billions of dollars.

* Mexico: U.S. lawmakers introduced a bill they claimed will help prevent a “continental trade war” against Canada and Mexico.

* Chile: A Chilean court ordered reopening the investigation into the mysterious death of Eduardo Frei Montalva, an ex-president and staunch critic of strongman Augusto Pinochet, in 1982.

YouTube Source – AFP

Online Sources – ABC News, CTV, Reuters,

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Daily Headlines: May 19, 2015

* Colombia: A state of emergency was declared for areas of northwest Colombia ravaged by a landslide that killed at least sixty-two villagers and wiped out several rural communities.

* Argentina: Ex-Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati strongly rejected his country’s alleged role in the 1994 bombing of an Argentine Jewish cultural center that left eighty-five people dead.

* Puerto Rico: Several hundred protesters marched in opposition to an estimated $249 million in budget cuts to education and a proposed new value added tax.

* Venezuela: The U.S. is reportedly probing senior Venezuelan government officials including congressional chief Diosdado Cabello over possible drug trafficking and money laundering.

YouTube Source – euronews

Online Sources – Yahoo News, The Guardian, Fox News Latino, Reuters

Monday, May 18, 2015

Daily Headlines: May 18, 2015

* Venezuela: Venezuela’s main opposition coalition held legislative primaries with the hope that they can take advantage of growing discontent against the government and capture the National Assembly later this year.

* Cuba: Several Caribbean countries are being hit with very dry weather conditions including Cuba where more than 1 million people are reportedly affected by “an intense drought.

* Latin America: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is expected to announce a series of major investment projects in Latin America during his official visit to Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Chile this week.

* Vatican: Argentine-born Pope Francis canonized two Arab nuns from Palestine days after the Vatican formally recognized the state of Palestine.
YouTube Source – Al Jazeera English

Online Sources – Miami Herald, Fox News Latino, USA TODAY, teleSUR English

Friday, May 15, 2015

Daily Headlines: May 15, 2015

* Argentina: On a dark day for Argentine soccer yesterday the Copa Libertaodres match between River Plate and Boca Juniors was suspended after players were attacked with pepper spray, while league play this weekend was postponed over the tragic death of Emanuel Ortega.

* Brazil: A new report blamed a “slow justice system and flawed police investigations as well as the widespread availability of firearms” for a record 42,000 people killed by gun violence in Brazil in 2012.

* Chile: Valentina Maureira, the 14-year-old Chilean girl who earlier this year requested for euthanize, died on Thursday from complications related to cystic fibrosis.

* Colombia: A Colombian counternarcotics panel confirmed the ban on using the possible carcinogenic glyphosate in the aerial spraying against drug crops.

YouTube Source – FootballManiaChannel

Online Sources – Bloomberg, The Guardian, BBC News, TIME,

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Daily Headlines: May 14, 2015

* Latin America: A new report from the Inter-American Development Bank and International Monetary Fund, a record $65 billion in remittances were sent to Latin America and the Caribbean in 2014.

* Paraguay: Several hundred Paraguayans marched to call attention to the plight of child sex abuse victims amidst a debate over whether or not a raped 10-year-old girl should be allowed to undergo an abortion.

* Cuba: U.S. presidential hopeful Marco Rubio assailed Pope Francis for his stance on Cuba and said that the Argentine-born pontiff is “not a political figure.”

* Chile: Researchers believe that climate change is to blame for the degradation of the world’s oldest mummies that were found in Chile and date as far back as 7000 BC.

YouTube Source – CCTV Americas (Video uploaded in January 2014).

Online Sources – MercoPress, TIME, PRI, The Latin Americanist, CBS News

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Daily Headlines: May 13, 2015

* Brazil: Most of the stadiums either refurbished or constructed with $3 billion in public funds for last year’s World Cup are reportedly generating very little revenue and are falling into disrepair.

* Caribbean: Authorities in the Dominican Republic warned that the country is facing its worst drought in the last twenty yeas, while several Puerto Rican cities including the capital San Juan will start water rationing.

* U.S.: A new Pew Research Center study found that the both the percentage of Latinos speaking proficient English and the number of those speaking Spanish at home has grown since 2000.

* Mexico: Mexican public health officials suspended infant vaccinations following the deaths of at least two babies administered routine vaccinations in Chiapas.

YouTube Source – Football

Online Sources – Vox, Dominican Today, UPI, Fox News Latino, International Business Times

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Daily Headlines: May 12, 2015

* Colombia: U.S. Ambassador to Colombia Kevin Whitaker said that his country will respect the South American’s state decision to suspend the use of possible carcinogenic glyphosate in the aerial spraying of coca.

* Argentina: The Argentine government filed a lawsuit against Citibank regarding the legal tug-of-war over repaying billions of dollars in defaulted debt.

* Brazil: The Brazilian economy is expected to shrink at a greater-than-estimated 1.2% according to the country’s Central Bank.

* Venezuela: Apparently in response to pressure from Brazil, Venezuelan electoral authorities declared that legislative elections would be held in the final quarter of this year.

YouTube Source – CCTV America

Online Sources – Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Fox News Latino, MercoPress

Monday, May 11, 2015

Abortion Debate Intensifies in Southern Cone

The abortion issue is a very sensitive and divisive topic in many areas around the world. This has certainly been the case recently in several countries of Latin America’s Southern Cone region.
  • Paraguay
On Monday police in Paraguay transferred to a prison the alleged rapist stepfather of a ten-year-old girl who sought an abortion.

“I never touched her,” said 42-year-old Benitez Gilberto Zarate after he was arrested last Saturday. He denied sexually abusing his stepdaughter and has requested a DNA test in an attempt to clear his name. Yet he was on the run for nearly a month after prosecutors accused him of impregnating the girl who was first seen by doctors in Asuncion on April 21st.

The child’s mother was detained on April 27th and charged with breaching duty of care of her daughter. In January 2014 she denounced her husband for sexually abusing the girl but the authorities allegedly took no action. Earlier this month she requested permission to seek an abortion for her daughter where the procedure is allowed if the mom’s life is in danger. Yet Paraguayan courts rejected the solicitation much to the satisfaction of the federal government.

Health Minister Antonio Barrios on May 4th insisted that the doctors are closely monitoring the girl’s health and declared his opposition to abortion. He further argued that performing such a procedure might be too late.

It is impossible because the girl arrived in our hands in the 21st week of pregnancy. The abortion should have been done prior to the twentieth week. We are now in the 23rd week,” said Barrios.

Paraguayan feminists and reproductive rights groups believe that the child’s life is certainly at risk and that her mother has been unfairly punished for seeking the abortion.

“When you consider the threat to life and the anatomical and psychological risks, the first step that should be taken in pregnancies of girls under the age of 13 should be an abortion. This is what the authorities fail to understand,” asserted Lilian Soto, an activist at the Centro de Documentación y Estudios.

The abortion case has also caught the attention of international rights groups and entities. The European Union is “closely following the evolution” of the girl’s health and called for the “global protection…of the rights of children.” A panel of U.N. human rights experts blamed the Paraguayan government for refusing to provide the proper treatment for the pregnant girl.

“Every day in Paraguay and average of two girls between the ages of ten and fourteen give birth to a child,” said UNICEF official Andrea Cid. “These cases are a consequence of sexual abuse and, in most situations, from constant abuse where victims have not received opportune assistance,” she added.

[Read about the abortion debate in Uruguay and Chile below the page break].

Daily Headlines: May 11, 2015

* El Salvador: At least ten suspected MS-13 members were killed on Saturday amid a surge of gang-related violence that has led to 481 murders in March 2015 alone.

* Cuba: Cuban President Raul Castro met with Pope Francis yesterday, thanked the pontiff for brokering the diplomatic thaw between his country and the U.S., and “promised” to attend all the Pope’s masses during his September visit to the Caribbean island.

* Peru: The Peruvian military has been deployed to the southern Arequipa region where police have clashed with residents opposed to the $1.4 billion Tia Maria copper project.

* Mexico: Mexican boxer Saul "Canelo" Alvarez beat James Kirkland in an electrifying bout that was the polar opposite of the dull and overhyped Mayweather-Pacquaio match one week prior.

YouTube Source – teleSUR English

Online Sources – Reuters, Christian Science Monitor, The Latin Americanist, ESPN, UPI

Friday, May 8, 2015

Daily Headlines: May 8, 2015

* Brazil: President Dilma Rousseff claimed that Brazil is “tirelessly seeking a solution to (Venezuela's) political crisis”, while the Brazilian Senate approved a resolution condemning the “arbitrary detention” of Venezuelan opposition activists.

* Argentina: The government rejected reports claiming that Belgian officials seized two Argentine embassy bank accounts at the behest of hedge fund creditor.

* U.S.: A new study on the health of Latinos in the U.S. concluded that the “Hispanic paradox” exists though results vary by subgroup.

* Mexico: Police rescued 103 migrants from Central America, Sri Lanka and India held hostage in Mexico by a human smuggling gang.

YouTube Source – Venevision (Mitzy de Ledezma, the wife of imprisoned Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma, met with former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso on May 5th).

Online Sources – Fox News Latino, Reuters, Buenos Aires Herald, Fusion, UPI

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Daily Headlines: May 7, 2015

* Cuba: U.S. firms are reportedly “uninterested” in drilling for oil off the Cuban coast despite the push to improve diplomatic and economic ties between both countries.

* Colombia: A new study found that Colombia accounts for a whopping 85% of the population of displaced individuals in the Americas.

* Panama: Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela accused his predecessor, Ricardo Martinelli, of having lost $100 million in government funds due to corruption.

* Peru: Peru will join eleven other countries including Chile, Japan and the U.S. in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade alliance.

YouTube Source – NewsyBusiness (Video uploaded in December 2014).

Online Sources – Reuters, teleSUR English, Zee News, Peru this Week

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Colombia to Investigate U.S. Military Sex Abuse Allegations

The Colombian government pledged on Tuesday to thoroughly investigate allegations into fifty-four suspected cases of child sex abuse by U.S. military personnel and defense contractors.

“We request through diplomatic channels and bilateral cooperation that U.S. authorities report on the progress of their investigation,” according to a statement from Jorge Armando Otalora of the Ombudsman’s office.  Otalora condemned the rumors that sex acts with minors was videotaped and distributed as pornography.

“Since child pornography is a transnational crime, there exists mechanisms to guarantee justice and prevent impunity regardless of the diplomat immunity of the accused,” emphasized Otalora.

While Otalora called on the prosecution of those behind the suspected abuse, the head of Colombia’s child welfare agency, Cristina Plazas, urged potential victims to come forward.

Furthermore, Plazas also suggested the establishment of special commissions in the Cundinamarca and Tolima provinces where the supposed abuse took place in order to “actively seek girls and teens that were victims of abuse at the hands of soldiers.”

A truth commission seeking details on the decades-long armed conflict in Colombia authorized the “Historic Commission of Conflict and its Victims” study. The section by Renan Vega, a history professor of the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional de Bogotá, describes the fifty-four cases of alleged abuse committed between 2003 and 2007 in a small part of the 809-page study.

“There is abundant evidence of sexual violence and total impunity, thanks to bilateral agreements and diplomatic immunity of U.S. officials…(It is) part of sexist and discriminatory behavior known as ‘sexual imperialism’ similar to what happens in other places where U.S. military forces are stationed,” wrote Vega.

Spokespeople for the U.S. military and defense contractors claimed that there is insufficient evidence to prove Vega’s claims, while an investigation by the Fusion television network concluded that his allegations were “unsubstantiated.” Yet evidence appears to exist of the 2007 case of a 12-year-old girl purportedly raped by a U.S. sergeant and defense contractor: